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Legal aid for committal proceedings

Date:4 APR 2014
Queen's Counsel and Mediator

David Williams QCMunby P granted criminal legal aid to the alleged contemnor in respect of committal proceedings within Hague Convention proceedings on 6 March 2014. In doing so he referred back to his earlier judgment in Chelmsford County Court v Ramet [2014] EWHC 56 (Fam), [2014] 2 FLR (forthcoming) delivered on 22 January 2014.

In that case he said:

'I turn to legal aid, public funding. In Re Jennifer Marie Jones [2013] EWHC 2579 (Fam), para [43], I referred to what, as I was told, seemed to be the limited availability of public funding in contempt cases. Whatever the limitations of civil funding, public funding in contempt cases is available under the criminal scheme. The key provision is regulation 9(v) of the Criminal Legal Aid (General) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/9), which says: "The following proceedings are criminal proceedings for the purposes of section 14(h) of the [Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012] (criminal proceedings) - ... (v) any other proceedings that involve the determination of a criminal charge for the purposes of Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights." The effect of the decision of the Court of Appeal in Hammerton v Hammerton [2007] EWCA Civ 248, [2007] 2 FLR 1133, is that this covers all proceedings for contempt of court, whether criminal or civil in nature and whether arising in the context of criminal, civil or family proceedings.'

It is therefore possible to obtain criminal legal aid for an alleged contemnor even if they are not eligible on means or merits or scope for the main family proceedings in connection with which the alleged contempt occurred.

Anyone representing an applicant on committal should draw this to the attention of the alleged contemnor and of the court to ensure that the committal process is Art 6 compliant. If that is not done there must be a risk that any contempt finding will be susceptible to appeal on the basis of serious procedural irregularity within CPR 52.11(3).  

David Williams QC specialises in private international family law in particular relating to children. He is also a mediator providing services on all family issues.

David was appointed QC in 2013 and Family Junior of the Year 2011 for his work on international law in particular cases in the Court of Justice of the European Union and the UK Supreme Court. He is also a member of the International Family Law Journal Editorial Board.

David practises from 4 Paper Buildings in Central London.